First Aid Kit

You may be saying:

"This is not happening to me!"

"I can't believe she wants a divorce."

"I finally had to leave. It was awful!"

Newly separated, moved to my friend’s basement, I needed concrete help, not platitudes. I found I was dealing with death, relationship death, the ending of a life. I discovered that true help– for the long haul but also First Aid, for here and now. Let’s begin with the First Aid Kit Instructions:

Respire. Use mindful breathing to relax and calm your mind. Start by sitting comfortably on a chair or cushion with your spine straight (off the chair back). Take a nice, big breath and slowly exhale. Now all that’s left to do is to notice your simple in-breath and out-breath, just as it is. When thoughts begin to crop up, that’s natural. Just silently label them "thinking", and bring your attention back to your breath. Continue this process for 5 or 10 minutes, taking a break and then repeating again. This basic meditation powered the Buddha’s teaching for 2,400 years.

Replenish. Relationship stress can take the mind out of the body. Get serious about drinking 64 ounces of water daily– it’s the quickest way to combat anxiety and depression. Stop reading this now, fill a glass with cold water and drink all of it before setting the glass down. Eat 5 small, nutritious meals per day. Take a good multi-vitamin. Walk or run mindfully 30 minutes per day. By "mindfully" we mean knowingly, in the present, and with awareness.

Round-up the support of friends. Isolation is the major risk behavior after a break-up. Remember, were the roles reversed, you would be there for a friend. Make a list of friends, family and helping professionals, dividing them up into the categories, 1) To Listen to Me, 2) To Spend Time With, and To Avoid– friends that drain you. If you’re helping others too much, it’s just another form of isolating.

Realize that the strong emotions you may be feeling - anger, grief and fear– are temporary, and are based in the past or future. Your work is to get more and more free from them by living more and more in the present. The tools in this kit will help you do that. You can also consciously begin a positive future by marking your calendar with some enjoyable plans for this month and next month.

Relieve your stress and confusion by journaling. Pick up a good quality journal and a fast-writing pen. Your Inner Critic is not invited. Let the words flow. Try timing yourself for 10 minutes, writing without stopping for spelling or cross -outs. This can be a great release, and great learning when you come back to read it later on.

Rinse and Repeat. Make a pact with yourself to repeat one or more of the above daily for 2 weeks.

Good luck and good healing!

-Norm Gibson, MA, LCSW.